LINK: The Grim Game Review by Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz

Grim Game Lobby Card eBayOur friends, Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz of The Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA did a nice review of The Grim Game that they were fortunate enough to see several times in NYC, when they were living and performing in New York City, shown by collector Larry Weeks.

MUM New York, August 1919 page 20Check it out:

You will also find some other nice Grim Game links at their website:

Is 2015 the year of The Grim Game?

Related Posts:

Feature is not up to Expectations but Photography is Excellent

A couple weeks ago I did a blog on what is wrong with these pictures, “The Man From Beyond” and “Haldane of the Secret Service”.

This week, I thought I would share a mixed review from Variety magazine that said “The Grim Game” feature isn’t up to expectations:

 variety55-1919-08_0176_GGVariety Friday August 29, 1919 page 66

At least the review ended on a positive note saying the photography was excellent.

Still 298-22: Who is the other man in this still?

This still 298-22 has intrigued me for a long time.

We know that is Harry Houdini playing Harvey Hanford (Cameron’s nephew) and we know that is Ann Forrest playing Mary Wentworth (Cameron’s ward and heiress), but who is the other man in this still?

Feel free to read The Grim Game Cast and Story and use the actor photos below for clues.

Your choices are as follows:


Harry Houdini (Harvey Hanford)


Thomas Jefferson (Dudley Cameron)


Augustus Philips (Clifton Allison)


Tully Marshall (Richard Raver)


Arthur Hoyt (Dr. Harvey Tyson)


Unidentified Actor (Old Servant Banks)


Or you could choose NONE OF THE ABOVE.

Care to take a guess before I share some more thoughts on the matter:

Well, it is not Harvey Hanford [Harry Houdini] unless Dixie Dooley’s story is correct and Houdini has a twin brother in disguise.

It possibly could be Dudley Cameron [Thomas Jefferson]. Could this be the scene when the following Cameron spoken title appears?

“I’ve told you to keep away from Mary, you – spendthrift! I have other plans for her. Now get out!”

Cameron has disinherited his nephew.  He has never got over his hatred of the young reporter who once forced his way into his presence to get a story and whom he had thrown out. He has repudiated and forbidden HH to enter his house. Cameron also want’s Mary to wed Dr. Harvey Tyson not HH when he dies.

It possibly could be Clifton Allison [Augustus Phillips] since we know he carried a revolver and shot Dr. Tyson and Cameron in the movie.

I think we can rule Richard Raver [Tully Marshall] out; he was never at the house at the same time as HH and Mary, and does not come across as the type to have a gun.

It possibly could be Dr. Harvey Tyson [Arthur Hoyt]. There is a scene in the script where Dr. Tyson see’s the couple HH and Mary before him.  Their attitude shows him that there is a rival in the field who may upset his matrimonial plans. Dr. Tyson shows his bitter anger at what he has seen.  He starts as though to confront the lovers…  However, Dr. Tyson has a moustache in the movie.

It possibly could be Old Banks [unidentified actor], the man-of-all-work who is Cameron’s servant, butler and guard at times.  The following subtitle appears in the movie:

The main entrance is guarded by old Banks, the man-of-all-work, who admits only the chosen few.

On one occasion when HH pays a visit to Mary, HH is discovered by Banks. By a clever trick, Banks drops the gun and HH seizes it.  Banks calls attention to the fact that HH has no business on the grounds and in a spoken title adds:

“If anything happened around here, we’d have circumstantial evidence on you – prowling about these grounds with a gun!”

HH places gun just inside the gate just before closing it and making his escape.

Okay, so based on knowledge of the movie, the above descriptions and photos of the actors; who do you think it is now?

Houdini Opens at Broadway


NY Tribune August 24th, 1919

93 years ago to the day, August 25th, 1919, The Grim Game opened at B.S. Moss’s Broadway Theatre at the corner of B’way & 41st St.

NY Tribune August 27th, 1919

Houdini appeared in person explaining on the stage a few of the dare-devil mystifying stunts portrayed in the film.

Below is a review of the film, story and Houdini’s speech from the NY Tribune.  Enjoy!

Houdini Shows How Easy It Is to Do Hard Things and Make a Good Photo Play

“The Grim Game”, at the Broadway Theatre is entirely different from any picture we have seen, and it seems to us a smashing success in every sense of the word.

Our only criticism is that the story is too long in getting started.  We wanted less preparation and more Houdini, and after the picture was finished we felt still more strongly that a lot of time had been wasted in the first two reels.  The last three are crammed full of miraculous escapes, aeroplane flights and disappearing heroes.

All of the things which Houdini does (they are not tricks) are done in plain sight of the camera, so that if you cannot do them too it is not because you do not know how they are done.

The story is by Arthur B. Reeve and John W. Gray.  It tells of a miser, Thomas Jefferson, who lives alone a beautiful old home with his niece.  Her fiancé is Harry Hanford, a reporter.  This is Houdini.  The owner of the newspaper is in debt to old Cameron, who holds his notes.  A Richard Raver, lawyer, is also in debt and has forged his clients name to secure money.This part is cleverly played by Tully Marshall. Dr. Tyson who completes the triumvirate, would benefit by old Cameron’s death, because his will states that the doctor must marry his niece and inherit his money.

Hanford arranges a bet concerning circumstantial evidence, which if his employer wins, will bring him money enough to redeem the notes held by Cameron.

The old miser is to be spirited away and he himself is to be the suspect. Only the plan goes astray, for some one really does murder the old man, and the three men who have been in the game with Hanford all claim that they know nothing about it, and refuse to clear him.

As all three of them would benefit by Cameron’s death the story resolves itself into one of those mystery murder plays.

Houdini makes a speech at the end of the picture in which he tells of the aeroplane collision which is shown so plainly in the pictures.  The ending was to have been quite different, but when the propellers on two planes interlock, and the planes are sent whirling around in the air 4,000 feet above the earth and the camera catches it we do not wonder that they to keep it in the picture.

The plane in which Houdini is chasing his enemy is directly over the other plane. He lets himself down by a rope, and it was the intention of the scenario writer to have climb in the enemy plane and take the wheel, but the other way was much more exciting only, of course no one would voluntarily take such a risk.

Houdini’s speech is dignified and effective.  He makes no attempt to be facetious, but merely tells of the danger of making such a picture.  Irvin Willat  directed the picture and risked his life to photograph some of the scenes.

H. U.

The Plot Thickens

The following detailed plot synopsis appeared in the December 6, 1919 issue of The Moving Picture World:

Harvey Hanford, the part played by Houdini in The Grim Game, is a special writer on The Call, who is noted for his nerve and daring in gathering news.  He has an eccentric millionaire uncle who lives with his ward, Mary, and will not let Harvey come near him.  The old man knows that his nephew and his ward are in love with each other, and is opposed to the match.  He is also aware that he is surrounded by three men, any one of whom would profit by his death.  The first is his lawyer, Richard Raver, who has misappropriated some the Cameron funds.  The second is Dr. Tyson, his physician, who expects to marry Mary, heiress to the Cameron millions, when their owner dies.  Clifton Allison, owner and publisher of The Call, is heavily in debt to Cameron, and the old man has threatened several times to drive him to the wall. 

A plan is hit upon by Harvey to work up a big sensation for the paper by getting the old man away secretly and then making it look as if he (Harvey) had murdered his uncle.  After he has been convicted of the crime, Dudley Cameron will be brought back and circumstantial evidence will be given a heavy blow.  The three men agree to this, but each one is determined that the old millionaire shall never return home alive.

The scheme is set in motion and Harvey is arrested for the murder of his uncle.  Then commences a series of Houdini escapes, the last one being a genuine thrill and the most dangerous of the Handcuff King’s career.

While trying to change in midair from one flying machine to another, the two airplanes crash into each other.  This, of course, is an accident, but the camera caught it and also the dive to earth of the machines which followed.  None of the actors in the accident were seriously hurt, and The Grim Game is able to show on the screen an “escape” that is a thriller of thrillers.  The story is brought to a highly satisfactory close, and Harvey and Mary are united.

The Bear Trap

Picture four saplings bent to the ground, each with stout rope attached, formed with a loop in the center and held down by a trigger to which is attached a large chunk of meat.

Houdini comes hurriedly toward bear trap, jumps over it and exits running.

Suddenly men appear from behind trees and pounce upon Houdini.  There is a big fight but Houdini is overpowered and held to the ground by the men.  The men place Houdini near center of trap; they hold him down while binding one rope after another to his hands and feet.  Houdini is stretched between the four saplings. The men then rise and let Houdini’s body shoot upward.

You can guess what happens next.  That’s right, Houdini releases himself, drops to the ground, and runs out in direction of lodge.

[Paraphrased from Paramount Files at Margaret Herrick Library]


This is just one of the exciting escape sequences from the “The Grim Game”.

Here are some others:

Over the Edge With Death Below and Imprisonment Above!

Houdini is taken to an asylum.  He breaks away.  All exits blocked, he makes his way to the roof.  He is pursued by the attendants, one of whom has seized a straight-jacket. He is overpowered.  

Picture the attendants putting the straight-jacket on him and binding his feet with a long rope.

When, they finish binding him, Houdini, with superhuman effort, rolls over, he throws himself over the edge of the roof.  The attendants catch hold of the rope and hold him just below the cornice, suspended, head downward, in midair.  The attendants on the roof tie a half hitch around the chimney to hold Houdini and he begins to sway back and forth at the end of the rope tied to his feet, which he braces against the cornice to prevent them pulling him back on the roof.

With all the strength at his command, he releases himself from the jacket.  He then bends his body upward and grabs hold of the rope which is tied to his feet.  Holding on with one hand, he unties his feet with the other, kicks off his shoes and then drops his feet down and swings from one end of the rope.  A small window below his body offers a means of escape.  He swings like a pendulum at the end of the rope and catapults his body through this small window.

The attendants on the roof feeling his weight released rush to the edge of the roof expecting to see him dashed to pieces below.  This gives Houdini the opportunity to escape.

You can guess what happens next.  That’s right, Houdini on the run, scales a wall by pulling himself up and disappears over the other side.

[Paraphrased from Paramount Files at Margaret Herrick Library]


This is just one of the exciting escape sequences from the “The Grim Game”.

Here are some others:

Stone Walls and Chains Do Not Make a Prison – For Houdini

Picture Houdini pacing up and down in the cell and then suddenly he stops, looks at his handcuffs and goes to the cell door. He peers out and sees the guard is not near.  He then sits down and begins removing his shackles. He succeeds in liberating his hands and now turns his attention to the leg irons.  He gets rid of the leg irons, runs to the door, peers out again and then sits back down on to the cot. He removes his shoe and takes the handcuffs and pries a portion of the sole of shoe revealing a steel shank in the instep.  This he pulls out.  He stands on the cot, reaches bars of window; puts cuffs on bars and using leg iron as lever begins to bend them. 

Finding that his head will now fit through the opening, he pulls himself up and wriggles his way through the bars and stands on window ledge many stories above ground.  Standing here, on the ledge, he reaches out and secures the rope of a flag pole.  He ties rope to bars of window, cuts rope with steel shank taken from shoe and begins lowering himself down to the window ledge below. Arriving on this ledge, he cuts off the end of the rope, ties it to the cell bar on this window and lowers himself again.  At each story, the rope gets shorter until finally, he is within one story of the ground. 

You can guess what happens next.  That’s right, he leaps down into the alleyway and makes a dive under a fast moving truck.  Houdini is seen clinging to bars underneath the truck as he makes his getaway.

[Paraphrased from Paramount Files at Margaret Herrick Library]


This is just one of the exciting escape sequences from the “The Grim Game”.

Here is another:

Forty Winks by the Star Reporter

Forty winks by the star reporter (Houdini) permit the office jokers to get busy.

Picture Houdini seated at a desk of a very busy newspaper office.  His head is back and he has slid down in his chair. A police reporter sees that he is sound asleep and motions to two other reporters.  They decide to play a joke.  The police reporter carefully slips one end of a pair of handcuffs on Houdini’s wrist which hangs down at the side of the chair – the other he snaps over the rung of the chair.  The three jokers suppress their laughter as they tip toe to watch the results.  Houdini sleeps on and has no idea of his predicament until his boss from his private office yells out his name.

You can guess what happens next.  That’s right, Houdini manipulates the handcuff with a smile on his face – then rises from his chair – casts an amused glance toward the jokers and strolls toward the private office.  The handcuff is left dangling.

[Paraphrased from Paramount Files at Margaret Herrick Library]

This is just one of the exciting escapes from the “The Grim Game”.